Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Tue 6th Oct, 2009

The wonders of modern technology

On Sunday I had some friends around to play computer games. Actually, due to one of those typical glitches in communication which happen when trying to arrange things a fortnight in advance with people on a Sunday night, only one friend turned up. The game we were most familiar with was StarCraft, which I still think has the best idea for getting people interested in playing - a 'spawn' version that allows you to run up to eight people on one registered copy of the program. Considering the problems I'm having trying to convince these friends to spend even $10 (for Supreme Commander through Impulse), a spawn version of some of these games makes perfect sense to get people interested without them having to shell out up front.

Of course, we first had to go through that dance of getting the networking set up and the machines talking to eachother. My machine would appear on his display when I first set up the game but would immediately disappear. Wireshark from another computer on the same switch showed traffic from both, but short of being on a dumb hub (and who has them these days) I couldn't tell where the problem was. Probably a firewall problem somewhere. Rather than spend a lot more time faffing around with networking settings in Windows, something I'm not entirely familiar with these days, I went with plan B.

Plan B worked perfectly, first time. Instantly we could see eachother, and our games went perfectly smoothly with no lag or hitches. What was this wonderous technology?

Serial cable.

By some miracle both computers had nine pin RS-232 serial ports; by another miracle I had a null modem cable with nine (and twenty-five) pin connectors. I deduced that it was a null modem cable because it had two female plugs. StarCraft did the rest. Hours of enjoyment.

The next day I found how to get the two machines talking to eachother - more precisely, how to convince the Windows Firewall that StarCraft was one of those programs it could deliver outside packets to. So next time we won't have to get the serial cable out. But I'm pretty happy that the option was there...

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